Elusive court orders, tangible gap in pensioners’ income
On 5 July the Head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group Public Advice Centre Ludmila Klochko and KHPG Consultant on Housing Issues Mykhailo Hayevsky gave a press conference to highlight certain worrying rights infringements.
Dissatisfaction with housing and communal services is nothing new. Nor are complaints about the courts. Around a third of the people who turn to NGOs for help have problems with court proceedings.
Ludmila Klochko, however, says that recently they are seeing worrying trends with violations of the human rights guaranteed by the European Convention.
Some of these are in connection with court orders over communal charges. KHPG predicted problems when these were introduced, and were not mistaken. Before, however, where these could be appealed (when the appeal period had not elapsed, etc), they were and the court orders were often revoked.
Recently they have started receiving appeals for help for people who have not set eyes on a court order, yet suddenly discover that money is being deducted from their pension or in other mandatory fashion taken away. Nor is this because they were away, or are not living at the place they’re registered at. They simply didn’t receive the orders. Nor have attempts to obtain the orders been successful, which means that they are being deprived of a fundamental right, that of access to the courts.
Mykhailo Hayevsky explains that over the last 6 months residents of Kharkiv have been coming to them with such issues. These are all pensioners, 90% of whom are living alone or are a pensioner couple, over 60, some over 70. Either they find that payments are being deducted without any idea why, or they receive resolutions regarding a court writ being initiated against them. There is no stamp on the paper, nor is it on a Justice Ministry form, just a text on a piece of paper, thrust in their mailbox or under the door. The notification tells them to come with a certain amount of money – in the thousands, or even 10 thousand UAH. – to a particular branch of the State Bailiffs Service. For some reason this is, as a rule, the Dzherzhynsky District of Kharkiv. Mykhailo Hayevsky says that he has approached the head of that branch on a number of occasions regarding these slips of paper without any formal number, date etc. The latter has done nothing to rectify the situation.
KHPG has appealed against such so-called court orders, and they have been revoked, with the execution also being stopped. However, money already deducted has not been returned.
That however is one scenario. Another, which has affected Mykhailo Hayevsky himself, is that they turn to the bailiffs who tell them not to worry, all is in order, while the court says nothing. Thus, nobody does anything – except deduct money from the person’s pension…. Mykhailo Hayevsky has approached both the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Justice Ministry over this, but to no avail. The former wrote back saying that it had passed the letter on to the Interior Ministry.
Mykhailo Hayevsky has stated directly that he believes there to be a conspiracy of people, including first instance court judges, who are in this manner extorting money from people. The list of those implicated includes lawyers from the Heating Network and probably also the City Executive Committee. The latter is logical since none of the others involved would feel safe unless they had cover from the Executive Committee. He believes that the trail may well lead to the Mayor. He says that he himself has been subjected to pressure over the last 6 months to cooperate with the city authorities and has also received threats.
Mykhailo Hayevsky points out that around 95% of all court cases after people approach them are successful, with the ones lost usually where people have not followed his advice.